Sometimes the most prime real estate is your outside space, like Brenda Garrand’s divine deck
Brenda Garrand has lived in her home in the Stroudwater area of Portland for 15 years, but initially didn’t do much with the deck other than purchase some Pottery Barn furniture. She put together a few flower boxes and “grew one perfect tomato.” Then, three years ago she enlisted the help of friend and designer Michael Zimmerman in turning her deck into an urban oasis.
It speaks to her past. Garrand’s family owned a house in the Cornish Artists’ Colony that had once belonged to artist Stephen Parrish (Maxfield Parrish’s father). That house, called Northcote, was well-known for its gardens and Garrand wanted to capture something of its look and feel in her deck garden. Zimmerman introduced an architectural dimension through mixing shapes, colors and textures. Garrand credits Zimmerman’s earlier career as a fashion designer for the resulting effect. “It comes from someone who knows how to drape clothes,” she says.
Although the gardens at Northcote were formal and part of the landscape, she appreciates the flexibility of a container garden, filled with plants from the Falmouth nursery Allen, Sterling & Lothrop. She can move things around when she entertains and it is easy to change things up from year to year, even for a busy woman in the midst of a career shift. Garrand recently retired from her advertising and marketing firm (although she continues to serve as chairman of its board) and is studying maritime law with an emphasis on Arctic issues. Her choice was inspired by her work over the years with the Maine International Trade Center and the Institute for North Atlantic Studies of the University of New England, as well as her interest in working with the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.
But there are still opportunities to relax. “I love living outside,” says Garrand, working on a knitting project (a Norwegian poncho) on the deck sofa while explaining what makes this her space. Her favorite time in the garden is the morning, when she sits in one of the armchairs drinking coffee, listening to public radio and “the lovely little buzz of nature.” Nonetheless, she allows, in the evenings, “there’s a lot to be said for jazz, a cocktail and a mosquito repeller.”
HIGH ON HIBISCUS
Garrand credits Zimmerman with introducing her to all sorts of treats for the eyes, such as plants with multicolored leaves and this hibiscus tree, complete with a different plant growing beneath it. “I never would have thought of that,” said Garrand. In the background is the outdoor dining table where she and her family (attorney husband David Pierson and, whenever he’s visiting from Canada, their son Charles) eat dinner on summer nights.
Basil apparently loves this deck garden as much as Garrand does. She also grows chives and oregano.
THRILL FILL & SPILL
The books contain photos of the Northcote gardens, Garrand’s childhood home. Almost every pot in her garden contains multiple plants, including one that trails over the edge. Gardeners call this the “thrill, fill, and spill” effect, and Zimmerman helped Garrand achieve it.
Whimsical touches such as this Buddha cat appear throughout the garden.
PEONIES ON POINT
Garrand likens peonies to Scarlett O’Hara, “throwing themselves into the world all large
and slutty and then fading—they don’t last.” The first flowers to bloom in her garden, she loves how “they’re full of ants and smell fantastic.”
Angie Bryan moved to Portland in 2018 when she retired from the diplomatic service. Her writing has also appeared in The Foreign Service Journal and Maine Today.